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Let’s do the thing

Why I am doing the thing.

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Hello everyone!

I’m going to go ahead an assume that most of the people that are going to be reading this for a while will definitely be people I already know, but it doesn’t hurt to start at the beginning.

My name is Ragnhilr Skegglaus, Ranka the Beardless, and I have been apprenticed.

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By this glazed donut with the Coke on the right here.

I started playing in the SCA from my first day of university in 2009, hanging around with The College of St Crispin at the University of Newcastle. I have been a lifelong history nerd so the fact that I started dressing up like a Viking and talking tall shit about fighting heavy surprised approx. no one.

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Newcomers Feast ’09, May Day ’09, and Festival ’10. Never did get authorised heavy tho.

From there I have been lucky enough to meet and befriend a huge amount of incredibly talented, crazily driven and flat out awesome people who played both at the university and beyond, in our home barony of Mordenvale. I’ve been sporadically bouncing back and forth between being a regular player and a cloistered hermit in the years since then.

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Spring War ’11, before I retreated into my warm den to sleep for five years.

It has only been this year, 2016, that I have put serious time and effort into improving my costuming skills and attempting to participate more in the wider community that we call the Society for Creative Anachronism. The first quarter of 2016 saw me and create husband and wife Landsknecht & Frau outfits for… well, my husband and me. I’m the wife.

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I wish I could grow a beard that good.

This was the first time I’d ever attempted to tackle a project of this size.

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With TAILORING! Late period, am I right?

And it was shit-tonnes of fun. I pushed myself, I created something I was stupidly proud of, and I had a really nice new piece of garb that fit me super well which was GREAT because I had gotten too fat for everything else. (Fried chicken is a drug, kids.)

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…and Dom got a peice of garb that was actually made and tailored for him, instead of a t-tunic thrown together the day before an event that fit both of us in case I got sick of wearing dresses.

It was also this Festival that Master Rurik decided that the best way to motivate me to continue to push myself and create “cool things” was to throw a green belt at me.

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One with PEDIGREE. He knows I’m weak.

 

This is a slight hyperbole. He did run it past me at a buck’s night like six months before but honestly we were all drinking so much moonshine and coke that I thought he was blowing smoke up my arse. That’ll learn me.

So after a long period of post-Festival post-big-project burnout, I am slowly starting to pick at my next projects, and as the main reason I have not entered any A&S competitions is that referencing scares the turds out of me, this is my way of easing myself into it. Over the next year or so the main focus of this blog will mostly we a large-scale Viking garb project with the intention of entering the Capsule Wardrobe A&S Competition for Rowany Festival AS51.

And finally, to the name of the blog: A Laurel Made Me Do It. Why this name? Why not “My Laurel Made Me Do It”? “Master Rurik Made Me Do It”?

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“I Drank A Lot Of Homebrew One Night & Woke Up With A Headache & A Green Belt”?

I am really lucky in that I know a lot of Laurels, and have been incredibly inspired by each of them. It seems wrong to give Rurik ALL the credit for that.

BASIC TUNIC CONSTRUCTION: How to get nice, even pieces

The great thing about most Dark Ages tunics is that they’re constructed mostly of rectangular pieces. For simplicity’s sake it’s fantastic- take your measurements, chalk out your fabric and off you go!

However, I have found over my time with working with linen that the stretch and pull of the fabric makes it difficult to get a perfectly straight line from one end to the other, especially when trying to cut out a very long piece, such as your centre body panel. Like, when you’re working with most wool or cotton fabrics, you can just nick the fabric and tear it in a nice straight line, it’s great! Linen, not so much.

So what do you do? You pull threads.

If you’ve worked with 100% linen before you know it unravels like nothing else .This we can use to measure out nice, square patterns. Spoiler alert: nice straight fabric pieces with a perfect seam allowance actually make the construction of the garment so much easier. SHOCKING, I KNOW.

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Step 1: Measure your fabric. Here I am measuring out my centre body piece. The length of the fabric I have bought is 3yrds, perfect for my length of dress, so I will be pulling a thread from one end to the other.

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Step 2: Nick the fabric at your measured point.

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Step 3: Gently tease a thread loose.

Step 4: Pick one and gently start pulling. I find pinching the fabric either side of the pulled thread further down in the fabric and letting it gather a little bit can help.

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 Step 4A: Pray the thread does not snap. (It will snap.)

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But this is okay! When the thread snaps, you can either use a thread pick to pull the thread free from the fabric a little ways down from where it has snapped, or smooth out the fabric, cut down the gully left from the missing thread and pick it up again from where it snapped. I usually go with the latter, because I have trouble figuring out which thread is which. (Really, if I could tell threads apart I wouldn’t be pulling threads out to cut straight, you know? Blind girl life.)

Step 5: Continue pulling until you have either reached the end of the fabric (if you’re cutting large pieces, like body panels) or until you’re an inch or two short of your final length (for smaller pieces such as sleeves and gores.) For smaller pieces, then you can pull a thread from the perpendicular side of the fabric to get a nice 90° corner on your pieces.

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Step 6: Cut along the gully left by the missing thread to get your nice even garment pieces!

Obviously this technique doesn’t work as well when you’re needing pattern pieces that aren’t straight lines or cut across the weave of the fabric, like skirt gores. However, I still use this technique to get a large rectangle the length of the gore, which I then cut along the diagonal and round out to get two gores, as the picture below.

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If you have any questions about basic tunic construction, please comment!

BASIC TUNIC CONSTRUCTION TUTORIALS: Why I Do That

Sorry for the radio silence everyone! I’ve actually been working quite hard, I swear.

Over the last few months I have been actively trying to improve my sewing skills. Sure, I can make a garment, but what could I learn to make a more period, better wearing, nicer looking, longer lasting garment?

In my adventures I have learnt a few things that I am actually pretty embarrassed I hadn’t worked out years ago. Nice square fabric pieces, paying attention to my seam allowance, actually finishing hems- it all adds up to a better garment! And heck, the more I sew, the better I get! Holy shit!

 

I think the reason that it took me a while to figure this out is a bit of a gap in tutorials between beginners sewing literacy and intermediate sewing literacy. I owe so much to tutorials written by other people just doing what they love on the internet, but there seems to be a gap between “This is how you sew a running stitch!” and “Attach the gores to the sleeve pieces and finish your seams!”

So, I am hoping to, over the next weeks, post a few short tutorials with pictures that help illustrate some of the small revelations that I have had over the last few months. I expect the techniques shown in these tutorials will be common knowledge to most of you, but I hope that it will be helpful to someone else who might be stuck in the gap between knowing how to use a sewing machine and being able to hand finish a garment, like I was!

Stay tuned children!

Skjoldehamn Hood

Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Hand Stitch The Dang Thing

Hello again everyone! Let’s put some goddamn content on this blog.

Since Festival I have been poor in both time and money. However, a few conversations on Facebook about the upcoming Capsule Costume A&S competition for Festival ’17 definitely rekindled my enthusiasm. Especially as I was already planning on having a pimp-ass Viking outfit sorted for Spring War this year anyway.

But what to sew when you have no money for fabric, desperately need to practice your hand-sewing and not much spare time to do it in? How about something smallish, functional, with lots of straight lines, some decoration and is very in vogue with the Dark Ages people in the SCA at the moment?

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Hey there good lookin’!

Heck yeah Skjoldehamn Hood!

I was lucky enough to have a few examples close to hand, sewn by friends in Mordenvale who were kind enough to let me fondle their hoods.

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Hoods created by Master Wulf (left) and Mistress Leoba (right)

…and that about sums up the amount of research that I did on this project before jumping in and sewing it. I have collected some sources related to the hood since then, and a lot of this article will be talking about why I did what I did, and what I would do differently since reading more into it. The main source I have been ogling while trying to decifer it from Norwegian (not much luck, but the pictures are pretty) is the amazing trove of information that is “Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet (New Thoughts on the Skjoldehamn Find)” thesis by Dan Halvard Løvlid, accessed from http://www.ceilingpress.com/. The photos and measurements above of the original hood are also from this thesis.

Most of my knowledge on Dark Ages stitches is taken from the document “Sitches & Seam Techniques Seen on Dark Age / Medieval Garments in Various Museum Collections” by Jennifer Baker of the New Varangian Guard, accessed from http://nvg.org.au/documents/other/stitches.pdf.

First of all, I needed to figure out where I was going to get enough scrap to make a nice hood. Fortunately, I had a bunch of white wool just hanging out. But who wants a bleach-white hood? I’d drop something down it in about five minutes flat.

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PICTURED: novelty/practicality

My first foray into dying fabric actually went pretty well! The colour that I ended up with, although dyed with modern chemicals, is feasibly one that could have been acheived in the Viking period as well. Bonus!

Most sources seem to agree that the centre peice of the hood is constructed from a single peice of fabric, however there does seem to be some disagreement over whether it was a long and thin strip of fabric, folded lengthways, or a square peice of fabric that was folded in half and then cut to make room for the gores. I went with the former, as it wasted less fabric, and nothing makes you thrifty like rego being due on your car. I also rounded the measurements (which are quite irregular on the original, whether this is the way it was made or warping from being in a blog for around 1000 years I am not sure) up to about 1 ft square for the gores and the centre piece 4ft by 1ft. Ish. I think.

The wool was cut and then the gores stitched on with simple running stitches (with the occaisional backstitch for extra security at points of stress) with a 90% wool/10% silk 2 ply knitting thread. A decorative herringbone stitch (same type of thread, but in a slightly dusky blue) was then applied over the stitches to both embellish them and hold the inside seam flat.

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The shell complete.

This is probably where I would proceed differently in future. Reading through Løvlid’s thesis, the decorative stitch was considerably different and less complex, and evidence of herringbone stitch in period seems to be relativly scarce except as hem treatment. Perhaps I haven’t been looking hard enough. It IS really pretty though.

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Comparison of the sketch from the thesis and the completed shell from my hood.

At this point I had a functional shell of wool. The hood found at Skjoldehamn was not lined, but as wanted this to be a hard wearing, comfortable, attractive and cosy garment, I sewed a lining out of red linen scraps I had handy. These were stitched, once again, with a running stitch out of the wool/silk blend thread, then the hems felled and stitched with what I THINK is called an overcast stitch or a prick stitch but I’m probably wrong.

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Spoiler alert: I ACTUALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING

The lining was sewed to the hood, right sides to right sides, around the face opening with a backstitch, flipped right side out, and then a blanket stitch was applied around the bottom. The blanket stitch was a common stitch used on hems in period, and in this case it had the added bonus of holding together the shell and lining without me having to do a million of blind stitches.

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…because bugger that for a game of soliders.

And with that the project was complete! This took a weekend and a bit of watching Bob Ross shows and one stressfull lunchbreak of sewing in the work kitchen. Setting out, my only goals were to have a nice, relatively period peice of garb that was functional and cosy. I’ve ended up with a hood that is constructed entirely of feasible materials for the era, entirely hand sewn, and fricken adorable.

HOOD UP
A Cosy Apprentice
Hood down
A Less Cosy But Still V. Cute Apprentice